King Crimson Islands on Limited Edition 200g Japanese Import LP
A frequently beautiful and sometimes unfairly overlooked part of King Crimson's always intriguing back catalog, on Islands the band left behind the formula they followed for their first three albums, setting off for more adventurous avenues of expression. If his leadership were ever in question before, Robert Fripp had emerged as the mastermind of the group by this point.
There's a much looser feel here, and even when essaying a delicate ballad like "Formentera Lady" or the gorgeous title track, jazzy bass and piano lines and free-wheeling percussion keep things from getting too settled. The jazz influence always present in King Crimson grew far more pronounced on Islands via saxman Mel Collins and pianist Keith Tippett.
Where the Crimson of old turned to Wagnerian grandeur to fill its classical quota, here they favor a more modern classical flavor, often approaching a third stream feel. Fripp's two instrumentals "Sailor's Tale" and "Prelude: Song of the Gulls" showcase his compositional and instrumental brilliance at its most undiluted. While there's more of a sprawling, spacious feel and little fury on Islands, the dynamic shifts are as drastic as ever, as evidenced by new bassist/vocalist Boz Burrell's barely audible singing on "The Letters."